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Why ‘Trusting Your Gut’ Doesn’t Work

When you’re interviewing, how much faith do you place in your personal instincts, in trusting your gut? Have you ever been wrong?

“I don’t use employee assessments, Ron. I just interview someone and trust my gut. I’ve rarely been wrong.”

I heard that phrase from a member of a management team who had previously confessed that he had been forced to replace over 130% of his workforce last year due to poor performance, theft, absenteeism, and voluntary turnover. I resisted the temptation to point out his inconsistency. He knew.

Should you trust your gut?When we fall into the trap of trusting our gut or trusting our instincts, what we’re really giving validity to is our unconscious biases toward the comfortable, the similar, or the familiar. Confirmation bias, In Group bias, and Status Quo bias all creep in and affect our decisions when we rely solely on instincts. ‘Trusting our gut’ means we’re relying on past experiences which may or may not be indicative of how the future will play out. Yet our human nature is to constantly make associations predicting the future. Managers should focus instead on measurable metrics not just an instinct, intuition, or ‘feeling.’

Several years ago Capital One’s CEO Richard Fairbank put it this way, “At most companies, people spend 2% of their time recruiting, and 75% [of their time] managing their recruiting mistakes.” Most of those mistakes were probably made on the basis of ‘trusting our gut.’

How much does ‘trusting your gut’ cost you?

An easy way to measure the effects of ‘trusting your gut’ when it comes to hiring new employees is to multiply the times you were wrong by at least $4,800. That’s the minimum turnover cost per employee. Lose 12 employees an you’re looking at over $57,000. Should that turnover be amongst management team members, you can easily multiply that number by a factor of ten.

Some would remind us that every time we lose any employee, good one or bad one, at the time we made the job offer, that employee seemed like a good fit. So what happened? What did you miss? Where did your instincts go wrong? How much did that errant decision cost?

A Complement To ‘Trusting Your Gut’

I don’t think any executive will ever completely forgo his or her instincts and I wouldn’t suggest they do. First of all, it simply won’t happen and second, there’s something to be said for anyone who has enough experience and accomplishments to rise to an upper level in an organization. But unless an executive or hiring manager is batting 1.000 (or at least .750?), there are additions to that experience that can complement the decision making process. The result is a much higher level of accuracy.

How? Perform a validated employee assessment administered by a certified professional who will follow up and decipher the meanings and nuances of the report. Make sure the assessment has been recently validated, that it includes behavioral tendencies, intrinsic motivators, business acumen, core-skills, and the employee’s emotional intelligence quotient.

Companies using these assessment products in addition to a several round interview process that examines experience, education, training, and the interviewer’s ‘gut feeling” regularly result in outstanding hires. We’ve seen retailers catapult themselves into profitability, hospitals win national awards, home-builders slash their turnover, and manufacturing firms that were previously teetering on the edge of closure turn around 180 degrees and begin generating profits.

A small investment in learning how to better pick your candidates now will pay you huge personal and organizational dividends in the future.

Are you willing to take action? Nothing changes until you change it.




Original article by Ron Haynes.

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn /